Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Proactive Digital IT

Running a proactive IT not only means to well align business and IT but more about IT-business engagement.

In today's digital business environment, information is the lifeblood, and technology touches every phase of the business, the CIO must be totally involved and participate in every decision of upper management and be proactive so there are no surprises when decisions are made. Statistically, the firms that have the CIOs sitting with the board or management committee are getting things done faster and become cost-effective in the long run. Ensuring a high-performing, high-reliable and high-proactive IT is the key success factor in organizational digital transformation. Proposing new technologies would be the final touch. A good relationship between Business and IT becomes visible by clearly defining tasks, authorities, and responsibilities. What are the real challenges of a CIO to build a high-performing IT? Or to worth brainstorming, how to run a proactive digital IT?

IT leaders need to be acutely in tune with the business: Due to the changing nature of technology, the CIO role is a challenging perch to sit on. Whilst they need to ensure their IT department keeps the lights on, continually improves, provide the IT enablement to allow the business to grow, the CIO also needs to be acutely in tune with the business. There is as much an onus on the business to understand IT, to be aware of the technical considerations required to deliver the business outcomes, to help plan the budgets, predict the financial and resource requirements, understand the constraints and work hand in hand providing support as one organization. IT leaders have to reach out horizontally to their business peers. Business-engaged CIO is an accepted leader to run a proactive IT and keeps navigating during rough sea. The CIO needs to be engaged, and at the most senior levels to help influence and shape the business of the future. Whenever you see "CIOs" who are purely focused on cost savings or implementing IT project only as technology challenges, and they are remote from the true business forums, they might still run IT in the industrial mode with silo thinking, without leapfrogging into the digital speed to run IT as an integral part of business. Because digital IT is designed for changes, understanding and communicating the business strategy is a beautiful thing. Without business strategy execution, there is no future and no need for IT. However, the CIO must be cognizant of the internal and external structure designed to provide safe passage to IT-enabled business solutions. These two aspects need to be merged. A CIO needs to have a powerful toolbox encompassing strong business acumen, soft skills such as communication and listening, technical experience and solid managerial leadership.


IT needs to be a proactive business problem solver: One point perhaps too often overlooked is that the CIO needs to be a part of a senior team - the business executive and the strategist, the change agent and talent master; for the role to be effective and as such the specific skills and areas of engagement will inevitably vary across organizations as these individuals fill the gaps left by other colleagues. In some cases, there will be a strong technology need that they fulfill; in more mature IT organizations, the development of business strategy should focus on radical digital transformation; in others at the lower level of maturity, there are perhaps more of a back office support challenge they have to overcome first. In all cases, the common element of a proactive IT is business engagement - whatever & wherever the business needs are, IT needs to proactively solve the problems with setting priority right. Ensuring a high-performing, high-reliable and high-proactive IT is the key success factor in organizational digital transformation. Proposing new technologies would be the final touch. A good relationship between Business and IT becomes visible by clearly defining tasks, authorities, and responsibilities. What are the real challenges of a CIO to build a high-performing IT?
- The main part of the IT budget is sunk in the existing IT-systems for keeping the light on.
- Regular system updates are challenging the existing IT continuously.
- New systems are difficult to implant into existing processes and system flows.
- New technologies arise so fast that it is hard to catch-up with speed.
- GRC Management is more crucial in today's digital dynamic.


The best and next IT practices: IT-Business proactive interaction, communication, and cross-functional collaboration are the strategic imperative. The proactive IT leaders and sponsors attend business reviews with the various business stakeholders in attendance and equally invited those business stakeholders to their IT forums. These sponsors lead discussions with the business to share IT innovation, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats present within IT, they listen to the business to understand the issues, put in action plans to help, review the business plans and strategy and work within IT to drive the value and outcomes to meet the business objectives. Where these types of interactions are sustained, year on year, openly reviewed and improved, such interactions force a close collaboration and better understanding of each other's worlds and IT is able to influence and contribute to corporate strategy.


Hence, running a proactive IT not only means to well align business and IT, but also about IT-business engagement, not only about providing IT service to the business users; but also about how to solve the key business problems to benefit end customers as well; not only about IT taking the order from the business; but also about CIOs as rule co-makers, to have a seat in the strategic meeting and make substantial contribution to strategy making and governance practices.

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